Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (L) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Army Gen. Mark A. Milley deliver remarks about the end of the 20-year military mission in Afghanistan at the Pentagon, in Arlington, Va., on September 1. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 18 (UPI) -- The Biden administration announced the completion of resettlement operations at one of its eight military posts where Afghan nationals evacuated from their war-torn country have been housed since the summer.
The Department of Homeland Security said in a statement Wednesday the last group of Afghans housed at Fort Lee, Va., have been successfully resettled across the United States.
In July, the Virginia base was the first of eight military posts selected to receive thousands of Afghans fleeing their country, with the first batch of some 2,500 evacuates -- those who aided the U.S. military during its two-decade war -- having arrived at the end of that month.
The eight bases were set up as part of Operation Allies Welcome to house the Afghan nationals as they undergo a rigorous, multi-layered screening and vetting process by several federal, law enforcement and intelligence departments.
"Last summer, Fort Lee was the first of eight DOD installations to welcome Afghans as they underwent the resettlement process, and today the task force at Fort Lee is the first to bid farewell to the Afghans as they proceed on to their lives in America," said U.S. Air Force Gen. Glen D. VanHerck, U.S. Northern Command commander.
The evacuation effort began amid the U.S. military withdrawal from the country that ended at the end of August, resulting in some 6,000 Americans and 124,000 Afghans airlifted from the country to the United States and international partners as Afghanistan fell to the Taliban.
To date, more than 25,000 Afghan evacuees have been resettled nationwide with the remaining seven military posts housing approximately 45,000 who are completing their resettlement process, according to DHS data.
Robert J. Fenton Jr., senior response official for Operation Allies Welcome, called the completion of the Fort Lee resettlement operation an "historic milestone" that highlights the nation's "commitment and perseverance" to welcome Afghan allies to the United States.
"We are incredibly proud of the collaboration that has led to the resettlement of more than 25,000 vulnerable Afghans, including those who worked on behalf of the United States, into local communities across our country," he said.
The remaining Afghans undergoing the resettlement process are housed at Indiana's Camp Atterbury, New Jersey's Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Mexico's Holloman Air Force Base, Texas' Fort Bliss, Wisconsin's Fort McCoy and Virginia's Fort Pickett and Marine Corps Base Quantico.
The resettlement effort has been led by the State Department in coordination with more than 200 local resettlement affiliates nationwide.
"We've reached a big milestone -- the last group of Afghan refugee families at Fort Lee have been successfully resettled," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said in a tweet. "I'm grateful for the hard work of everyone in Virginia who helped to safely welcome our Afghan allies."